From The Officials

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While the accuracy, speed and skill events are serious competitions, the fun events, like cigar smoke firefighting and greased pole climbing are the biggest treat for the contestants and audience alike.

Organizers of the 2010 Payson Arizona Loggers Sawdust Festival shared this information in the media kit prepared for the event:

The Payson Arizona Loggers Sawdust Festival is a series of competitions where the athletes compete in the use of axes and saws in a manner typical for lumberjacks. It was founded in the mid 1970s, and grew in popularity as one of the premier events in Payson.

The Loggers Sawdust Festival’s popularity is due in large part to the fact that Payson has a rich logging heritage. In more recent years, due in large part to major media coverage of the STIHL Timbersports Series that can been seen on ESPN, the sport is making a major comeback.

The long-term goal of the organizers of the Payson Sawdust Festival is to have it become the premier Logger Festival in the Southwest as well as up and down the West Coast. Due to Payson’s central location in Arizona, bordering the largest stand of ponderosa pine in the world, and the past history of this event, it is very conceivable to achieve this goal.

Contestants will have their accuracy, speed and endurance tested through a rigorous group of events. The contest will consist of 28 separate events that replicate many of the logging practices within the logging industry, utilizing saws, axes, gear and sweat to provide lumber and fuel for the earlier settlers of the region. Each day will have 28 events, with points awarded for each event. The events have their own cash prizes, and the points are used to determine the “Logger of the Year.” In addition, children’s activities are incorporated to make the festival a fun family-oriented event.

Event history

Due in large part to Keith and Kerm Owens who started Owens Brothers’ Lumber in 1934 and was sold to Whiting Brothers, which became known as Kaibab Industries, Payson was a leader in the logging industry up until the mill was closed in 1994. Vertielee Floyd conducted the first meeting in preparation of the logging and safety contest and in 1975 the first Sawdust Festival was staged in Rumsey Park among the backdrop of the ancient ponderosa pines. The Floyds started the loggers’ festival partly as an excuse for their logging friends to have fun and partly to stage an event that celebrated Payson’s logging heritage.

The very first Logger of the Year award went to Ron Smith. The award was then, and is now given in the memory of Reid Smith (no relation).

Reid Smith was the operations manager for Kaibab Industries. In 1984, the Payson Sawdust Festival was proclaimed as the First Annual State Logger Championship. As the Sawdust Festival grew in popularity, thousands of spectators and hundreds of competitors would descend on Payson each year to watch and participate in this annual event. And the resulting economic stimulus to the surrounding communities continued to substantially increase each year.

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